Our Outreach Program is gaining national attention for the innovative ways they are working to alleviate hunger for the more than 500 young people who enter our Drop-In Center each year.
100% of youth who visit our Drop-In Center are food insecure. Historically, to address youth hunger center staff have been serving hot meals two nights a week; making snacks and other food available for youth while in Drop-In, and were providing transportation weekly to other local soup kitchens and food pantries.
Participation in these off-site services was limited to only 2 – 4 youth per week due to factors like seats available in our van and scheduling conflicts. And even on-site services were being underutilized by youth who couldn’t be in the space when meals were being served.
Through conversations with youth, it became clear that more on-site meals and a take-home-food program were the best paths forward to expanding support for the varying needs of youth who frequent the Drop-In space.
In 2019 the Outreach Program has dramatically expanded food services. We began serving lunch 5-days a week and launched a weekly Mobile Food Pantry program—a first of its kind in the nation among Federally-funded Street Outreach Programs.
These innovative strategies to alleviate hunger for our clients were made possible by the Androscoggin Bank’s MainStreet Foundation $25k for Kids grant. The Outreach Program is using these funds to provide greater access to food on a daily basis for youth and to establish a new emergency client assistance project to eliminate barriers and help more young people access stable, independent housing.
Each Friday staff prepare food boxes for youth who have requested mobile food service and hit the streets. After only two months in operation, the mobile food pantry peaked at delivering 37 food
boxes to young people who need additional support over the weekend while our Drop-In Center is closed.
Prior to the support of the MainStreet Foundation, this level of access to food was out of reach. This investment in the immediate needs of our young people allows us to help them focus on their futures. We hope to continue to sustain this level of food programming in the years to come.
See the weekly meal schedule online: newbeginmaine.org/food-program/